Recreate the Race
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
- Unit Plan:
- Research and learn about the checkpoints along the Iditarod, including the geography, the people who live in this region, their cultures, and their traditions
- Read and/or participate in interviews of mushers and other Iditarod experts to gather information
- Recreate the checkpoints along the Iditarod race trail
- Calculate and graph distance between checkpoints
- Iditarod: Race Across Alaska Activities
- art supplies and writing paper
- chart paper
- computer(s) with Internet access
- construction paper
- crayons or markers
- Iditarod books
- poster board
- U.S. map with Alaska clearly visible
- optional: graph paper
- optional: LCD or overhead projector to display articles
Set Up and Prepare
- Set up an Iditarod learning center that includes:
- art supplies
- selected Iditarod books
- several computer stations, each designated for specific activities (NOTE: If computer access is limited, print articles referenced in this lesson and make them available offline in the Iditarod learning center.)
- U.S. map with Alaska visible
Step 1: Ask students what they know about the Iditarod. Get a discussion started by asking: What is the Iditarod? Where does this race happen? What is a sled dog? Record students' responses and ideas on chart paper.
Step 2: Draw students' attention to the U.S. map. Ask a volunteer to locate Alaska on the map. Point out how far north it is. Ask what they think the weather must be like that far north.
Step 3: Read aloud one of the selected books. Recommended: Iditarod Dream for grades 3-5; Woodsong for grades 6-8. (Note: Woodsong is 160 pages and may be read over the course of the project.) Alternative: assign students to read the online article The Iditarod: An Unforgettable Journey.
Step 1: Divide the class into pairs. Assign each pair one of the checkpoints along the Iditarod race trail. See the map at Explore the Trail.
Step 2: Explain that over the next three days, each group will make its way through various "stations" set up in the classroom to learn more about the Iditarod, including its history, the racers, the course, etc. Instruct groups to take notes as they explore each station, especially as the information relates to their checkpoint.
Station 1: Background Articles
Students get background information by reading All About Alaska and Historic Iditarod.
Station 2: Explore the Trail
Display clickable Iditarod route on one or more computers. Students explore the various checkpoints to learn the basics about each one.
Station 3: Young Mushers Students discover what the Iditarod means to the next generation of top mushers. By reading about a Junior Iditarod winner.
Station 4: Meeting the Mushers
Students learn about a variety of themes related to this unique race through interview transcripts and profiles of Top Mushers.
Station 5: Race the Course
Through a virtual sled race, each student gets to Be a Musher and see what the real race is like and the decisions mushers make.
Step 6: Have pairs review their notes from the stations and write down facts about their assigned checkpoint as well as the Iditarod in general.
Step 1: Over the next two days, each group should independently research their checkpoint further, returning to the stations as needed and checking library materials, the Recommended Books, or Additional Resources.
Step 2: Using their research, pairs recreate Iditarod checkpoints that include the following:
- banner or poster with the name of the checkpoint
- list of stats including distances from their checkpoint to the next/previous checkpoints and what they are
- description of what racers do at this checkpoint, including how long they generally stay
- brief essay about the geography of the region
- brief essay about people who live there, their culture, and their traditions
- pictures (either drawn or photocopied) showing what the area looks like
Supporting All Learners
Iditarod: Race Across Alaska addresses national standards across the curriculum as follows:
National Council for Geographic Education
- use maps and other geographic representations, to acquire, process, and report information
- know and understand the physical and human characteristics of places
- know and understand that culture and experience influence people's perception of places and regions
- know and understand characteristics, distributions, and complexity of the earth's cultural mosaics
- know and understand how human actions modify the physical environment
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)
- select and uses appropriate instruments and technology to measure in real-world situations
- develop fluency in adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing whole numbers
- develop and use strategies to estimate the results of whole-number computations and to judge the reasonableness of such results
- develop and use strategies to estimate the results of rational-number computations and judge the reasonableness of the results
International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)
- read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information
- adjust spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, and vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes
- use a variety of technological and informational resources to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge
- develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles
- use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information)
National Science Teachers Association:
- motions and forces
- transfer of energy
- organisms and their environments
- diversity and adaptations of organisms
Earth and Space Science
- properties of earth's materials
Science in Personal and Social Perspective
- changes in environment
- science and technology in local challenges
- populations, resources, and environments
- natural hazards
National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
- understand multiple perspectives that derive from different cultural vantage points
- compare ways in which people from different cultures think about and deal with their physical environment and social conditions
Time, Continuity, & Change
- read and construct simple timelines; identify examples of change; recognize examples of cause and effect relationships
- compare and contrast different stories and accounts about past events, people, places, or situations identifying how they contribute to our understanding of the past
- identify and uses various sources for reconstructing the past
- demonstrate an understanding that people in different times and places view the world differently
People, Places, and Environments
- demonstrate an understanding of relative location, direction, size, and shape
- interpret, use, and distinguish various representations of the earth, such as maps, globes, and photographs
- estimate distances and calculates scale
- locate and distinguish among varying landforms and geographic features
- examine the interaction of human beings and their physical environment
- describe ways that historical events have been influenced by, and have influenced, physical and human geographic factors in local, regional, national and global settings
Technology Foundation Standards:
- use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity
- use technology tools to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences
- use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences
- use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources
- use technology tools to process data and report results
- employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world
- Have students graph the distances between various checkpoints on this year's Iditarod route using a bar or line graph. Have them identify the longest and shortest distances between two checkpoints.
- At the end of this year's race, have students create graphs of the winning times. Using their graphs, students should be able to answer the following questions: Who had the fastest time? Who had the slowest time? What was the difference between the fastest and slowest times? What was the average time?
- Using information from the online project, have students work in groups to create their own Iditarod maps. Be sure they label mountains, rivers and other bodies of water, major cities and towns, and trail checkpoints. They should also include a legend and compass rose.
- Using their notes, have each pair of students create individual lists of questions they would like to ask real mushers or Iditarod experts. Match two groups to work together. One pair will interview the other, who will act as Iditarod "experts." Over a day or two, the "expert" pair can research answers to the other groups questions using information from the different stations, library materials, and unit booklist.
Use this Project Rubric: Recreate the Race to assess students' proficiency with this activity. Evaluate whether students' skills are improving or where they may need additional support or instruction.